One of the most important aspects of jiu-jitsu is the ability to remain calm under pressure. If you have ever been trapped on the bottom of a larger opponent’s side control you have undoubtedly felt that tinge of panic and claustrophobia that come with it. The key to surviving and escaping such situations to remain calm and work on your escape. Panicking will only cause your heart rate and breathing to increase thus tiring you out faster. Anyone who has rolled to complete exhaustion has felt the helplessness of knowing how to escape but being unable to execute due to exhaustion. While learning to stay calm under pressure takes practice and must developed over time, the surest way to prevent and combat exhaustion and panic is by breathing. We’ll get to some tips on breathing in just a bit.
Many lessons learned on the mat can translate easily to life, in general. Chief among them in my own personal journey is the ability to stay calm and work through a solution when you are being crushed. Whether you are being crushed by a 250 lb. man, a deadline at work or a 30 year mortgage, the response to pressure can be viewed the same. Breathe. Just Breathe. It sounds oversimplified here but the power of breathing has been linked to reduced inflammation in the body, stronger immune system responses and mitigation of the stress response. Anyone interested in looking further in to those benefits should check out the Wim Hof Method
The Wim Hof Method is a series of three rounds of deep breathing, each round followed by hold out on the last exhale for as long as you can. As you oxygenate your body you will find you can hold your breath longer with each round and even complete several push-ups without taking in a breath; check out the link above for more on how to execute the Wim Hof Method. When you oxygenate your body you increase blood flow and concentration asa well. Key elements to success in BJJ, especially competition. Once you become comfortable with the method, use that as a part of your warm-up before you roll and notice the difference in your ability to breathe and stay calm in the match/ training roll. For those looking to avoid that forearm grip burn as well this will help out with the increase flow of oxygenated blood.
The second breathing technique that will help you stay calm, lower your heart rate and alleviate stress/ anxiety is called Box Breathing. Simply draw in a breath for 5 seconds, hold it in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and hold it out for 5 seconds. This calming method is great for a heated moment at work or seconds before competing. Box breathing is used for everything anxiety reduction in therapy to tactical teams just before they get on scene.
There are many more breathing techniques, Most notable from a BJJ perspective are the techniques of Master Rickson and his son Kron. Look into the ones I have outlined above and any other methods you can find and start implementing them in you BJJ game and your life!